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Stephen Freeman 1898 - 1999 Naval Aviator No 1,091 Charles Schleininger corsair schleini@lemoorenet.com Fall 99 Wings of Gold - F. Peterson, S.
Ceballos & H. Schultz.

" A distinguished educator &
administrator for 45 years at scenic
Middlebury College in Vermont, Professor
Stephen A. Freeman never shed his pride
in being among the exclusive cadre of
very early U.S. Naval Aviators. ... He was a
French Professor for 38 years, served as
the college's vice president for 20 years &
periodically as its acting president. He
was instrumental in the founding of
Middlebury's prestigious Italian, Russian,
Chinese & Japanese language schools &
the creation of French, Spanish, German
& Italian graduate schools.

Yet he so revered his experience in Naval
Aviation that he maintained his vintage
uniform ... wearing it regularly in the
village of Middelbury's Annual Memorial
Day Parade.

Freeman was inspired to fly when his
father took him to an aviation meet at
Squantum in Boston Harbor in the
summer of 1912. Pioneer aviators at the
meet included ... Beachey, Bleriot &
Curtis.

They flew the early experimental planes of
bamboo frame & canvas covering, sitting
out in the air with a wheel in their hands.
...

After Naval Aviation Ground School at MIT
... I went to Hampton Roads for flight
training. The 4 seaplanes in service, but
often out of commission, were housed in
2 canvas hangers. There were no runways.
Wearing armpit waterboots, we simply
pulled the plane up on the shore. I
enjoyed my first flight, in September 1917,
in a Burgess, single-pontoon seaplane.

I stayed in the air as much as possible,
often logging 3 flights daily. Still a
teenager, I soloed on January 1918.
Later, because of bad weather in the
Norfolk area, we were sent to Pensacola
to continue training.

I got my wings in February, after 37 solo
hours. I didn't become ah ensign until a
month after I turned 20 in June. I suspect
the top brass didn't want a teenager as a
commissioned officer. I then became a
flight instructor.

2 good friends had speculated with me
on how to change seats with a pupil ... in
a tandem seat N-9. It seemed feasible for
1 to get out on the opposite side, both
holding the wheel & keeping the plane
level; & then getting back in, changing
seats. They tried it but forgot that the
rudders at their feet would not be under
control. their plane veered in a gust of
wind, went into a sideslip & then a spin.
Both were killed.

I was assigned next to NAS Rockaway.
flying patrols over the large volume of
New York harbor, especially ocean liners
filled with troops headed for the
battlefields in Europe. I looked for German
subs & had 2 bombs on either side of the
cockpit ...

...in a Curtis R-6 approaching a practice
target, I pulled the handle to release the
bomb on my right side. The firing button
triggered but the bomb snagged part way
down the chute. A little propeller in the
bomb's nose which was suppose to
revolve when it entered the water, was
whirling in the wind., meaning the bomb
would explode immediately on leaving the
plane! I grabbed the little propeller to stop
it, holding on to the bomb. I flew back
left-handed & landed safely, quickly
warning the mechanics!

On an early morning patrol I unexpectedly
came upon a partially submerged
submarine. With bombs ready I flew
closer & identified its American markings.
Seeing me, the submarine surfaced ... &
sent out all kinds of signals I could not
hear, & waved the American flag. ...

One of my highs occurred on a beautiful
clear morning when a large convey
departed for Europe. I stayed with it nearly
4 hours, over 100 miles out. On the way
back, against a smooth west wind, the
plane seemed to want to climb, & I let it. It
reached 6,700 feet, the highest I had ever
flew, & about the limit for a flying boat. The
view over the coast was clear &
wonderful.

My hours in the air in 1917 - 1918 are
among the sources of my greatest
pleasure. I see myself again, hands on
the wheel of a Navy plane, the wind in my
face, 6,000 feet in the air, all alone, free, a
bird in the blue!"



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